Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/01/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 123 mins

Impressively directed by Sidney Lumet (he's 83, you know), this is a thoroughly gripping thriller with a strong script and terrific performances from its two leads.

What's it all about?
Deriving its title from an Irish toast (May you be in heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead), this cracking thriller stars Ethan Hawke as Hank, a divorced father whose dire financial straits lead to him getting involved in a scheme concocted by his equally desperate older brother Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), whereby they rob a jewellery store owned by their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris). However, when the heist goes horribly wrong, both brothers are left frantically trying to conceal their involvement as events spiral out of their control.

Things are particularly difficult for Andy because he's been embezzling funds from his accounting firm in order to fund a severe drug habit and he's about to be audited. And as if that wasn't bad enough, to complicate things still further, Hank is having an affair with Andy's wife (Marisa Tomei).

The Good
83-year-old Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) directs like a man with something to prove, eliciting terrific performances from his actors and orchestrating some superbly suspenseful sequences. He's aided by a note-perfect script from first time screenwriter Kelly Masterson, which cleverly plays with the film's structure and chronology by replaying various scenes from different perspectives.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is sensational as Andy, a desperate man whose rapid unraveling is genuinely terrifying to watch. Ethan Hawke has the less showy part by comparison but he's equally good and there's also strong support from both Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei, who seems to have suddenly decided to experiment with nudity.

The Great
There are several terrific scenes here and the script also manages to pull off enough shocks and twists that you genuinely have no idea how it's going to end, resulting in a nerve-shreddingly tense final act.

Worth seeing?
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a hugely suspenseful, emotionally devastating thriller with impeccable direction and terrific performances from Hoffman and Hawke. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 27/03/2019 00:30

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